Monday, 18 August 2014

4th at the Toronto WMCQ with BW Midrange.

Elspeth Suns Champion
Desecration Demon
Pack Rat
Nightveil Specter
Obzedat, Ghost Council of Orzhova

Banishing Light
Bile Blight
Devour Flesh
Sign in Blood
Hero's Downfall
Whip of Erebos
Godless Shrine
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Caves of Koilos
BW Temple

Lifebane Zombie
Sin Collector
Underworld Connections
Drown in Sorrow
Last Breath
Banishing Light
Doom Blade

I have been experimenting with a lot of versions of Bx in the past few months. Before the PT I was interested in exploring versions which were similar to standard jund decks of old. In other words:

-Lots of Removal
-A few insane finishers
-A little bit of card advantage
-A couple of anti-control cards

Key to these builds were moving away from the standard MonoB synergy power and towards individual card power.  Channelfireball had already moved towards this direction, but I had enough experience with the deck to recognize a lot of things I didn’t like in their PT build.

After grinding for a week (including winning a Bye for WMCQ), I came across BBD’s build at 8am on Sunday morning. His biggest innovation was 3x Obzedat and 0 Bloodbaron’s main. Its also where I saw 4 sign in bloods.

I did see his article on SCG, but mostly adopted the changes based on a couple of things that really clicked for me after playing around with something closer to CFB’s list.

No BBoV: This card is good against MonoB and GW. But MonoB had already adopted 4 devour fleshes and 4 lifebanes main.  Rabble Red and Jund Planeswalkers had also adopted a million ways to answer it.
Meanwhile Obzedat is a faster clock (though worse at stabilizing) and more resilient. Basically demons 5-7. The clock part is highly relevant, because even if you tear their hand/board to shreds you can’t control the top of their deck (as a true control deck can). So you need to kill them.

Sign in Blood: Underworld connections becomes a debatable inclusion when not playing with grey merchant. It’s definitely great against UW and decent against the mirror. But sign in blood as a couple of key things going on. First, it lets you play 25 lands. Secondly, it makes your deck better on the draw. There is a significant portion of the field where connections is a mulligan on the draw (MonoU, GW, rabble red, even planeswalkers sometimes). Your deck is already bad on the draw because pack rat loses so much power.  Against MonoB sign in bloods are great because you want to start drawing cards in the midgame rapidly after you are getting thoughtseize and lbz’ed. They also make your curve much smoother since:

Sign -> 3 Drop or Removal ->Sign-> demon is much less awkward than when you have a Connections.

2 NVS, 1 LBZ: Lifebane Zombie is slowly becoming awful. Big green idiot decks are pretty poorly positioned and I am tired of getting chandra’ed. The card is good against GW, but NVS is reasonable there also. Meanwhile NVS is much better vs MonoB, MonoU, UW and Rabble Red. The 4 most important decks in the format. In general I am not high on 3 drops and almost cut them all from my deck. If you noticed my analogy to Jund, than the 3s don’t really fit anywhere in it. You could definitely save some sideboard slots and run 2 LBZ (cutting the one from the board).

4 Demon: Playing less than 4 demon is completely idiotic. Its your anti-bullshit card. People obsess over pack rat, without realizing that demon kills them just as quickly.

Duress Main: Very good against jund planeswalkers. Decent against rabble, GW and the mirror. Pretty bad against MonoU.

SB: The sideboard really only has one interesting decision. Either you respect Rabble Red (and play 3 drownn) or you use those slots to beat up on Midrange Green decks or GW. On Modo I saw barely any GW all week and the dealers were sold out of Legion Loyalists. So I decided on 3 drowns.

Erebos is an awful card. Only good against UW and then often just turns on Deicide.
The second last breath, LBZ and BBoV are the cards you want to beat GW.
You don’t really need to sideboard in the mirror.

The only mistake in deck construction was the Whip of Erebos. It should probably just be an interactive spell or a bloodbaron. I have never liked Whip in MonoB or Bg. But because this was my first time playing 3 obzdaddy, I decided to try it. Since BBD and Ben Friedman were clearly on board, I figured it might be better in BW than the previous MonoB versions I was more familiar with. I only drew it g1 twice and cast it once (vs Hayne and I lost).  I included it to try and be better against UW (since I was cutting connections), but am not sure it does enough.

I side it out versus basically every deck since I am not really interested in racing in any matchup except the mirror.

W - MonoU
W - Jund PW
W - UW

W - UW
W - Br
W - Jund PW
Draw (I couldn’t play for seed because I got paired against a friend).  This would come back to bite me because I would be on the draw vs GW in the semis (which probably swings matchup by ~10-20%).

QF: Beat GW on play.
SF: Lose GW on the draw.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

NEW Organized Play Changes

Doing the Math.
sPTQ=Sub-PTQ = Feeder events.
rPTQ = Regional PTQ

Toronto has a population of about 3.5M people. Those people are served by 30 stores according to site location on Wizards (was actually easy to find with google!). I assume that 90% of the stores can and will host the sPTQs. An rPTQ has to cover about 20.6M in NA assuming it covers an equal fraction (16 rPTQs for 340M people in NA).

So that means we expect the rPTQ to average about 160 people in attendance (triggering the 128 cap). If the cap is not triggered (variance in attendance or less than 90% of stores hold sPTQs) than things are worse for most people.

Consider a “grinder”. This player will attend up to 10 sPTQs and has a 10% chance to win all of them. He also has a 8% (1.5x a 8/160 chance) chance to top 8 the rPTQ (reflecting his skill relative to increased difficulty).

Expected Cost of Qualifying:
6.5 Local sPTQs (sub 1.5 hr travel) + 1 rPTQ (65% of the time).
5% net probability of qualifying (you can increase to 7.1% chance if you attend all 27 sPTQs).

Grinder is willing to travel to 6 PTQs a season (everything <4 hours away). Has a probability of winning the PTQ = 2%.

Expected Cost of Qualifying:
6 PTQs (since low prob of winning).
11% Chance of Qualifying (this falls to 5.9% if you are only willing to attend 3 PTQs).

You will have less travel time per event. But spend more time on Magic. You are about ½ as likely to qualify if attended 6 ptqs a season. But only about 1% less likely if you attended 3 PTQs (though your magic time is now 3x). 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Random Thoughts on BTT Limited

Biggest Disagreements with CFB articles on limited (Limited to 2 cards per color):

Siren of the Coast Fang (MindControl Tribute): Seems to be rated as one of the better uncommons. I think it is mediocre. Essentially equivalent in power to a Prescient Chimera. And since we get two packs of Chimeras/Horizon Scholars I am not interested.

Its often going to be a 4/4 flier which is obviously good but not a ton better then prescient chimera. However on an empty board or versus a 2/1 (or 1/1, 2/1, 2/3 etc) it becomes a 1/1 + shitty creature. Imagine a board of three 2/1s. Mind control can be worse than a 3/4.

Archetype of Imagination: This is much better than mind control tribute. It can single handedly win a game. It represents a fast clock with any other board presence. Of course you can get blown out by removal but that isn’t much different than many other game changing pants in history of magic. At least in this format instant speed removal is much harder to come by. Perfect curve topper in any aggressive blue deck, though if it could only stop the unbeatable Nessian Asp it would be perfect.

Hero of Iroas: Frank Karsten has it as the third best rare. Which mostly doesn’t make sense in the context of how he rates Akroan Skyguard. I have had the Hero twice, it makes about 2 mana per game (when you draw it). Usually only one of that mana is meaningful (in terms of improving your curve). That upside does not make it significantly better then skyguard/wingsteed/favored hoplite etc… White is the best color, but Hero is much closer to Skyguard than Endless Legions.

Akroan Phalanx: White/Red is the best deck (or at least tied for it). Phalanx is insane in that deck while serviceable if you can’t activate it. However its fairly easy to get a shimmering grotto or nylea’s prescence. I am definitely first picking it over Vanguard of Brimaz.

Everflame Eidolon > Fall of Hammer  >> Bolt of Keranos and Searing Blood.

I think cheap removal is overrated since I only really want it vs ordeals (and edict hero). You also end up low on space in your heroic decks since combat tricks are also required. Everflame eidolon is cheap, trades with everything and a huge threat on an empty board.

Fearsome Temper: Second best common in the set. Can’t fathom a world I take searing blood over this. Post PT I started taking it over Bolt (which I didn’t have the balls for even though it felt right initially). Do not regret.

Nessian’s Wild Ravager: Personal bias definitely plays a part here, but I think the card is very overrated again. Worse than nessian asp. If you are losing to huge flying creature (or aqueous form etc..) the ability isn’t saving you. It comes down slow (acceleration is now less common as well). Basically too interchangeable with other shitty green boom booms to be a first pick.

Mortal’s Resolve: Fantastic card. This is green’s wannabe God’s Willing . Should be in discussion for best green common in the set (at least your first copy).  On that note stop passing Boon of Erebos.

For commons/uncommons:
1. Bile Blight
2. Asphyxiate
3. Servant of Tymaret

Don’t like Shrike Harpy in aggressive decks and its more replacable than the servant (though maybe slightly more powerful).

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Welcome to the Jungle.

I played Zoo at the PT. It didn’t go well. Limited didn’t go well either.

I still think this is the best Zoo deck. But given  that 3 people played the deck and the other two hated it, maybe its time to let go. 

The List:
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Loam Lion
4 Experiment One
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Flint Hoof Boar
3 Mutagenic Growth
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
4 Tribal Flames

4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Arid Mesa
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Blood Crypt
1 Temple Garden
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Stomping Ground

3 Pyroclasm
3 Scavenging Ooze
1 Destructive Revelry
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Combust
1 Torpor Orb
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Sword of WaP
1 Harm's Way
1 Stony silence.

On this Zoo deck:
16 one drop zoo makes you a 50/50 deck where 15% of the time you draw 3 one drops and they are just dead. You also get a bunch of free wins against people who just didn’t really respect zoo. The main question is why this is better than a bigger version of zoo.

Going large is a lot less effective in the mirror these days. It used to be that a 4/4 (or 4/5) blocking a 2/3 or 3/3 was always a 2 for 1. Mutagenic Growth and Rampager changed that. All of the sudden your opponent often has to block on turn 3 or 4 with his 5/5 knight and you are going to blow him out.

People were also focused on fighting Zoo with permanents so I wanted to have the best reach possible. Once the board gums up you often need to be able to deal 5-8 damage off of two cards. Enter Rampager/Tribal Flames. We tested the mirror a bunch and felt that the added instability/damage from lands was basically the never deciding factor in the mirror. Against most big decks you are the aggressor (and life is not relevant) and against the other smaller decks flood/screw and helixes were the most important things. Taking an additional 2 from your lands wasn’t a big deal.

3 drops in general suck because you end up having to build a manabase which wants to get to 3. This means you can’t operate on 1 or 2 effectively and when you flood you draw 5 or 6 lands instead of 4 or 5. I think 3’s also generally are a trade off between resilience and speed. For an open format I generally want speed.

Maindeck I wanted to be immune to 2 power creatures (electrolyze/grim lavamancer/magma spray) being relevant by themselves. E.g. I didn’t want the front half of voice, back half of Finks or other random 2-power dudes to do anything against me by themselves. Thus there are no Goblin Guides or Burning Tree Emissarys. In most matchups you are fast enough without them.

The biggest sideboard innovation came from Todd. His suggestion of Pyroclasm was excellent in a variety of very close matchups: Affinity, Pod, BW Tokens, UR Pyromancer. It was also randomly decent against things like Boggles. In those matchups they are often relying on chumping while stabilizing or racing. Being able to clear multiple blockers (for two mana) is often enough to swing the game.

You can’t really bring out more than 5 cards in any matchup with this deck, so the rest of the sideboard is to provide you with some disruptive cards that cover almost any and every matchup. You can have insane 4 drops for the UWR matchup because they path you.

I had concerns with 3 matchups:
1) Burn.
2) UWR.
3) Twin decks built like our team’s. Tempo twin decks (such as ones that top 8ed) are much easier to beat because Spellskite is the real problem card. Didn’t think most people would play the more combo-ish version.

The Manabase is a work of art. Avoiding the chronic Steam Vents + Scalding Tarn combo that seems perennial in almost every tribal flames deck.

On Deck Selection:
The reason the top pros didn’t do well (in my opinion) is because even if you found the best archetypes with 3-5 days to go it didn’t matter. You weren’t going to be able to play/build them proficiently. Not having experts in the "hard" decks also made some of the fringe strategies seem better than they probably were. For example I know that going into the week of testing I thought that Scapeshift crushed Pod. I still think its favorable but much closer than I previously thought.

2-3 days before the PT I thought Pod was the best deck. But, after watching Josh McClain, talking to Sam Pardee and trying a few games for myself, I realized I couldn’t play it. I just don’t have the intuition to be able to pilot the deck with anything close to optimality.

In addition to Pod, I was confident we also had the best Affinity list (courteousy Alex Majlaton), the best Burn deck (courteousy Glenn McIelwain and team refinements), the Best Zoo deck (me and Todd) as well as the best Twin list (Glenn again).

Burn: This was our best anti Zoo deck. But it was a bit of a glass cannon and I (pretty much alone on the team) thought there was a good chance that Zoo would be a small part of the metagame (~10%) or not at the top tables.

Affinity: Early in testing we were all looking at cutting affinity hate or playing more generic cards (e.g. Destructive Revelry over Stony Silence). We didn’t think affinity would be a big player. When everyone starts believing that, it becomes the perfect time to robot some people. I am not good at affinity so it wasn’t really an option for me. It also turned out that other people kept their affinity hate for the most part.

Twin: For the metagame Face to Face was testing I thought Glenn had broken it. It was a better version of Burn as far as I was concerned. The all in Twin version had much better game vs Zoo and sacrificed against U-Control decks and Thoughtseize decks. Neither of which I thought would be big players (but I was open to being wrong here). However after testing a few games I was miserable. I think in 10 games I won 1. It was a weird headspace where I couldn’t beat the deck and I couldn’t win with it. I was drawing 3 Splinter Twins in every game or missing 4th land drops. My mind said the deck was great, my practice said it sucked. On the other hand I was confident in every card choice for Zoo.

Zoo: From our testing even the decks built to beat Zoo only won 40% of the time. And doing so contorted your deck to be worse against everyone who wasn’t trying so hard. Thus I thought the top tables would just be the versions of decks where they didn’t try so hard to beat Zoo (and that is essentially what Sam/Jacob/Josh did). Unfortunately most people decided to just jam 3 Anger of the Gods main and it didn’t hurt them because everyone was doing it.

Going forward I would be okay playing this deck again. The only matchup I wouldn’t want to play against for sure in the top 8 was Sean’s deck. Storm might also be bad, but I assume it will be unplayable in the near future as people go back to having some hate for it. I have no idea how Blue Moon plays out, but I know they have a lot of cards I normally don’t mind seeing across from me. Maybe their LD is good enough.